Monday, April 23, 2007

Chasing Fireflies ~ Charles Martin

Chasing Fireflies
Charles Martin
Hardcover: 356 pages
Thomas Nelson

ISBN-10: 1595540563
ISBN-13: 978-1595540560


"When paramedics find a malnourished 6-year-old boy near a burning car that holds a dead woman, they wonder who he is---and why he won't talk! Chase, a small-town journalist, is assigned to cover the story and investigate the boy's identity. But will his search unearth long-buried emotions about his own history?"

Reviewed by Gina Holmes

Charles Martin's, Chasing Fireflies is an amazing work of tragedy and hope, suffering and redemption. It is a masterfully written tale, told with heart and filled with surprises, both pleasant and painful.

Mr. Martin is the rarest of storytellers, as much poet as he is novelist. Fireflies should be enjoyed not only for it's wonderful story, but also for its brilliant literary value. Each word sings, and each page builds off the last to tell a story that is entertaining, thought provoking, truth seeking and redemptive. Outside of the Bible, there may not be a perfect book, but Martin once again, gets us joyfully close.

My highest recommendation for Chasing Fireflies to anyone who's ever wondered who they were, whose they were, or where they fit into this vast world. (And for all who simply enjoy an amazing read.)

Kim Vogel Sawyer's Where Willows Grow ~ Reviewed

Where Willows Grow
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
Published by Bethany House
ISBN 10: 0-7642-0183-2

Anna Mae isn't sure her husband is being completely honest about his job with the Works Progress Administration. They're building a castle? In Kansas? Harley promised he'd be at his worksite only ling enough to earn enough cash to keep their farm. But the money hasn't arrived, and Anna Mae fears Harley may be gone for good.

Harley Phipps has never been a man in need of luxuries, but he wants to do right by his wife and two little girls. He was about to lose all he'd worked for if her didn't do something—there was no way he could pass up the government job, even if it meant leaving his family for a while. Anna Mae was awful mad when he sold the mules, packed his bag, and headed out. If only she'd send him a short note to let him know she and the girls were all right...

Set during the Great Depression, Where Willows Grow is a poignant story of love, determination and grit. Sawyer weaves a rich tapestry of emotion, deep characterization and setting that beckons the reader to curl up and wrap themselves up in it.

At times, I felt like I was reading about the 1800s instead of 1936, as farm life during the Depression was harsh. Anna Mae beings to wonder what if she'd made different choices. Would her life be easier? I won't spoil the read by revealing any more of the story, but I can promise any book with the name Kim Vogel Sawyer on it promises to be a great read.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Randy Alcorn's Deception ~ Reviewed


Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Fiction (April 17, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590526163
ISBN-13: 978-1590526163

"Messin' with me's like wearin' cheese underwear down rat alley."
Ollie Chandler

Homicide detective Ollie Chandler has seen it all. Done more than he cares to admit. But when he's called to investigate the murder of a Portland State University professor, he finds himself going places he's never gone before.

Places he never wanted to go.

Because all the evidence is pointing to one horrific conclusion: The murderer is someone in his own department. That's not the worst of it, though. Ollie has nagging doubts...about himself. Where was he during the time of the murder?

Joined by journalist Clarence Abernathy and their friend Jake Woods. Ollie pushes the investigation forward. Soon all three are drawn deep into corruption and political tensions that threaten to destroy them -- and anyone who tries to help. But they're in too deep to quit. They've got no choice. They have to follow the evidence to the truth.

No matter how ugly -- or dangerous -- it gets.

A gripping story of murder and spiritual struggle. Deception proves, as never before, the truth of Ollie's first law: "Things are often not what they appear."


I love sarcasm and clever writing. Man, did I hit the jackpot in "Deception." Chances are that if you pick up a book that carries the picture of an eye surrounded by jagged glass, you wouldn't expect humor.

I laughed out loud... several times. From author Randy Alcorn's use of trendy Chuck Norris jokes, to a spotlight loving police chief who uses more clichés that Carter has pills (sorry, couldn't resist), to clever references subtly mocking commercialism, this novel is hilarious.

If you'd think that a novel, first person, classic crime detective Sam Spade-style, chock full of humor couldn't be a true mystery, well, you'd be wrong on that count, too. Multiple plot twists, red herrings and some creative surprises await mystery lovers.

Finally, the book is the third in a series, and they all center around lost people needing Jesus. Ollie puts up a fight, and it feels as realistic as, well, as talking to people who are angry with God, looking forward to the big party in Hell, and a few dozen other issues non-Christians have with Christianity. The truth is handled well, and honestly. Hypocrisy is a fact of life. Bad, awful, tragic things happen, and people carry around some serious complaints against God. Deception handles these issues with work gloves rather than kid gloves.

The only thing I didn't fall in love with were the very few scenes where different point of view characters shared from heaven. These scenes pulled me from the story, and in my opinion, didn't add to the unfolding story. But because this is a book in a series, I believe Alcorn stuck close to the original design of the books.

I recommend "Deception." If you don't like classic detective novels or characters you may not love it. If you find Ollie's quote above at all amusing, I think Chief Lennox would tell you "Deception" is right down your alley. And if nothing else convinces you, Chuck Norris "strongly recommend[s] that you read [Alcorn's] books."

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tosca Lee's Demon ~ Reviewed

Demon : A Memoir
Tosca Lee
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Navpress Publishing Group (June 8, 2007)
ISBN-10: 1600061230
ISBN-13: 978-1600061233


Clay has a problem. He’s being stalked, first by a suave, Mediterranean gentleman, then by an attractive young woman, then by a young punk-looking guy. Trouble is, all these people are the same being—and it’s not human. The entity stalking Clay claims to be a demon named Lucian, and he wants something. He commands Clay—a failed novelist and an editor at a small publishing house—to write his memoirs and publish them. He also promises Clay that the venture will bring him great financial reward.

At first Clay refuses. Hence the stalking. Eventually, however, Clay’s fear turns to obsession. He’s fascinated by the demon’s tale of his start as an angel of God, of Lucifer’s (and his own) fall from Paradise and their subsequent war against God’s favorites, mankind. Clay also sees a chance to salvage his career and his self-esteem by publishing the demonic biography, and the lure of fame and fortune seduces him. Clay becomes so frenzied that, if Lucian doesn’t appear for some time, he panics and tries to summon the demon.

Clay is one of those lukewarm people who thinks he knows the Bible and is a “good” person, but has trouble swallowing fantastic religious tales like people rising from the dead. Lucian’s story disturbs his previous notions, yet he can’t seem to accept it. He’s strangely attracted to the demon, but at the same time suspects that Lucian caused the death of a young woman as they were walking together. The reader also begins to see that Lucian is feeding Clay subtle lies in with the truth, bringing about Clay’s downhill slide in his work, health, and spirit.

The novel alternates between Clay’s struggles and Lucian’s story, a sort of sweeping overview of Creation, Fall, and most importantly, the redemption provided by God’s sending his Son. Author Tosca Lee, through Lucian, provides an unusual view of a familiar story. First comes the portrait of Lucifer and his cohorts—shining, powerful creatures who (at least according to Lucian) fall into pride and sin only one time. And yet, God separates himself from them forever. Then come the “mud creatures,” as he calls Adam and Eve and their progeny. To Lucian, they are pitiful and weak, constantly sinful and rebellious. And yet, God loves them, waits for them, courts them—and eventually comes down to wallow in the mud, in the flesh, with them. Lucian is astounded. Why does God love these creatures so? Why does he not give up on them as he did on the fallen angels?

Lee’s prose is powerful and beautiful. Her imagery of Eden, of Paradise and angels and Elohim, filled me with awe and helped me to see things in a new light. They also helped me appreciate my salvation anew.

I also appreciated that the author did not provide the pat, simple ending I expected. The story takes some complex directions and challenges the reader to think as well as feel.

Reviewed by Robin Johns Grant

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sharon Hinck's The Restorer ~ Reviewed

The Restorer
By Sharon Hinck
Nav Press 2007
ISBN-13: 978-1-60006-131-8

Meet Susan, a housewife and soccer mom whose dreams stretch far beyond her ordinary world. While studying the book of Judges, Susan longs to be a modern-day Deborah, a prophet and leader who God used to deliver the ancient nation of Israel from destruction.

Susan gets her wish for adventure when she stumbles through a portal into an alternate universe and encounters a nation locked in a fierce struggle for its survival. Now stranded in a strange culture filled with poisonous enemies, Susan must overcome tremendous odds to deliver a desperate people and restore hope to a world far from her own.

Author Sharon Hinck presents a unique blend of fiction written with a woman’s sensibility. Female readers will uncover a story of empowerment that encourages a personal pursuit of destiny.

Personally, my inherit mistrust of soccer moms made me a little hesitant to pick up this book. But by the end of a few chapters, the spunky Susan obliterated my preconceived notions and took me with her on a grand adventure. I grew to really like Susan, but the character of Tristan captured my heart.

Tristan eventually becomes Susan’s guardian, a noble undertaking to be sure, but it’s the complexity of this man that attracts. Cautious but bold. Hopeful yet unsure. Compassionate though hurting. He’s just so real. Readers will have no trouble relating to this or any one of the other-worldly characters in Hinck’s alternate universe.

Kudos not only to Sharon Hinck for her bravery in writing a genre that’s a hard sell, but also to NavPress for taking a chance on this wonderful fantasy. I hope the fantasy fan-base gets their grassroots in action, supporting NavPress and Hinck with their wallet at the bookstore.

Just in time for a great summer read, The Restorer is due out in June. There’s no better way for an out-of-this-world vacation. Read this novel and you won’t have to go to Susan’s extremes to avoid highway construction, whining children, and the horrible smells that emanate from the back seat on a long car trip.

Review by Michelle Griep

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Peggy Darty's When Bobbie Sang the Blues ~ Reviewed

When Bobbie Sang the Blues
By Peggy Darty
Published by WaterBrook Press
ISBN 978-1-4000-7330-6

One woman's trash is another woman's mystery …

When mystery writer Christy Castleman's Aunt Bobbie storms into town, she brings a burst of wild wind to quiet Summer Breeze, Florida—and new life to the junk she scavenges for her trash-to-treasure shop.

Bobbie enjoys restoring beauty to flawed items, and her free-spirited approach to life attracts a range of Summer Breezers, including members of the local Red Hat chapter and crusty widower Jack. Bobbie's battered red truck becomes a familiar sight around the coastal hamlet—loaded down with such odd items as a huge old pickle barrel—and her electric presence lights up the Blues Club in the evenings.

But the fin and games turn deadly when Eddie Bodine, Bobbie's ex-husband, is found dead in her pickle barrel. As compelling evidence mounts against Bobbie, can Christy expose the real killer before lively Aunt Bobbie is locked away for good?

Sequel to When the Sand Piper Calls, When Bobbie Sang the Blues is filled with quirky characters, mysterious happenings and enough plot twists to keep you turning pages. I thought I had the culprit figured out, but then a twist came along that made me think—Ah-ha! Now I've got it—that is until another character had the perfect motive. Sheesh.

Darty's settings are yet another character in her writing, an intriguing backdrop to her mysteries. Without overdoing description, she creates a town where I’d like to take a vacation—from the old pirate ship wreck to Miz B's Family Restaurant where the locals gather. A warm, fun-filled read perfect for an afternoon in the hammock with a glass of lemonade, When Bobbie Sang the Blues won't disappoint you.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chuck Black's Kingdom's Call ~ Reviewed

Kingdom's Call
By Chuck Black
Multnomah Books, May 15, 2007
ISBN-10: 1-59052-750-X

The final three books in the Kingdom series for young readers follow the life of Sir Gavin, a Noble Knight who aids in the execution of a stranger who comes from a distant land claiming to be the King's son. When an unexpected encounter changes his life—and the kingdom itself—Sir Gavin received a new name and a mission to take the Prince's message not just to the people of Chessington but to everyone in the kingdom of Arrethtrae. The quest for good in a dark world climaxes years later when the evil Dark Knight, Lucius, reigns in Arrethtrae with complete authority. Will the King himself be able to return Arrethtrae to the land of light it was created to be?

Written for children ages 10-15, the Kingdom series depicts the battle of good and evil without using magic, mysticism, or witches. Spanning the time of Jesus to Paul's conversion to the second coming of Christ and the book of Revelation, the final three books in the series will remind children of their own significance in God's kingdom.

I really liked this book. It was the most unpredictable Christian book I have ever read. With terrific battle sequences, intense duels, and a story line from the Bible. I highly recommend this book.

Reviewed by Reid Ausband
Age 11

Friday, April 06, 2007

Debra Clopton's Dream a Little Dream ~ Reviewed

Dream a Little Dream
By Debra Clopton
Published by Love Inspired
ISBN-10: 0373874227

It was just a local newspaper column, right? But when reporter Molly Popp touted the marriage-worthiness of local rancher Bob Jacobs, would-be wives descended on his Mule Hollow ranch by the busload. Molly felt guilty for the ruckus she'd caused -- especially when Bob was injured rescuing an overzealous admirer from a bull. There was nothing else city-slicker Molly could do but pitch in and help Bob out.

That is, until worked or her column brought the job offer she'd been praying for and a choice she never thought she'd have to make: a Manhattan byline or Mule Hollow's most eligible bachelor.

"Dream a Little Dream" follows up the storyline from "The Trouble With Lacy Brown." I'd suggest reading the first book in the series as I had a little trouble putting the pieces together in "Dream a Little Dream."

Once I figured out the cast of characters, I sailed right through "Dream." If you loved "Trouble"or like your romance full of cute humor and descriptions of beefcake (pun intended - Bob's a rancher) I think you might enjoy "Dream."

If you've always wanted to be a reporter but haven't done anything about it, or love the idea of bottle feeding a baby calf, or are interested in rodeo, ditto.

Debra Clopton fan? I imagine you'll find much to like. I've not read her before but if you like sassy southern girls, yellow bugs, puppies and men with navy blue eyes, dark curls and dimples, well you might want to look into grabbing a few Clopton romances.

Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Amy Wallace's Ransomed Dreams ~ Reviewed

Ransomed Dreams
By Amy Wallace
Published by Multnomah, April 17, 2007
ISBN-10: 1-59052-747-X

Gracie Lang is being watched by a man who will stop at nothing to hide the truth from her. Having lost the only man she ever loved and the children who were her world, the truth is all Gracie wants—an explanation for what really happened. She longs to move forward but is bound by chains of fear. Then she meets Steven Kessler, an FBI agent assigned to uncover an international plat to kidnap the British Ambassador's daughter. Steven awakes more than memories; he revives the possibility of a life Gracie desires. A life where healing and peace crowd out the nightmares. But his case and her past are dangerously connected. Suddenly, Gracie must decide if she's able—let alone willing—to pay the required ransom to redeem dreams and restore hope.

Seldom does a debut novel create excitement, but Amy Wallace has done just that. She drew me into Gracie's story with the finesse and skill of a seasoned author. She made me care. She also established that delicious sense of something's about to happen right from page one.

Being a debut book, I looked for problems. I never found any. What I did find is that Wallace turned off my inner editor, a rare feat. Ransomed Dreams has twists I never saw coming, yet each was exactly right. Avoiding all the clichés and formula writing, and in the tradition of Colleen Coble and Brandilyn Collins, Wallace has claimed her spot among the best of the best.

Page after page, I couldn't put this book down. Not once did writing grow dull. The pace was just right. Wallace must be a fisherman, because she played me like a rainbow trout, letting me run with the story, then reeling me back into the tension until I leapt with surprise.

On April 17, 2007 run—do not walk—to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of Ransomed Dreams. I rarely give a 5, and for a debut novel, it's nearly impossible. But Ransomed Dreams deserves that and more. It will go on Novel Reviews list as one of the top ten of the year.

Bravo, Amy. I'll be anxiously awaiting Sara and Clint's story.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Adam Palmer's Knuckle Sandwich ~ Reviewed

Knuckle Sandwich
By Adam Palmer
Published by THINK (an imprint of NavPress)
ISBN -10: 1-60006-048-X

Knuckle Sandwich is the next big thing in Christian rock music. It's a band formed by three Midwestern college students with three very different dreams. Bassist Jeremiah wants to reach the lost, singer Matt wants to be a rock star, and drummer Liz … well, she just wants a new set.

But as the group moves from the youth group circuit to opening national tours,. The friends begin to experience the perils of celebrity. While Matt's ego grows faster then the bands success, Jeremiah and Liz find themselves on the brink of sexual relationship. Now as the band starts to implode, can anything save them from a Behind the Music-style meltdown?

I haven't read such an intriguing book in a while. Witty and fresh, Palmer tackles some tough questions and sensitive subjects. Targeted at the young adult market, the book delivers a good message, laced with biting humor, and the credibility of an insider's view. All too often, characters' spiritual journeys seem contrived. Palmer's ring with veritable honesty. Knuckle Sandwich is a book both teens and their parents will enjoy.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Gilbert Morris's The Miracle ~ Reviewed

The Miracle
By Gilbert Morris
Published by Zondervan
ISB-10: 0-310-25234-2

Raising four strong-willed younger siblings after her mother's death and her father's imprisonment, seventeen-year-old Lanie Freeman never knows what new adventure will roll into view—such as her brother's wild idea to turn the family's old truck into a traveling store.

The Freeman Rolling Emporium could provide the financial security Lanie and her family so desperately need, or it could tear them, apart. Yet it's only a prelude to other changes. Author Brent Hayden's arrival in Fairhope breathes fresh life into Lanier's dream of becoming a writer. And then the hammer descends …

Lanie's father is diagnosed with cancer, and the faith and unity of her family are stretched to the limit. And on top of this shattering news, a crisis is about to strike that will rock the whole town of Fairhope—and shatter Lanie's dreams of love.

The Miracle continues the story of a young woman's valiant struggle to uphold her faith, her family, and her dreams during the height of the Great Depression.

With quirky characters and a good plot, The Miracle picks up where The Dream left off. Morris is an accomplished story-teller who doesn't let his fans down. The Miracle encompasses all the things that make a story memorable: love, humor and a bit of suspense. A great book for curling up in a hammock with.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan